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More youngsters getting tuberculosis

The WHO’s ‘Tuberculosis in the Southeast Asia Region 2008’ report shows that about one in three people in India have latent TB, reports Sanchita Sharma.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 25, 2008 02:12 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Stress, sleepless nights, smoking and crash diets have pushed up tuberculosis (TB) infection among urban 18-35 year olds. They now account for 60 per cent of TB infections in several upscale hospitals and clinics, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) survey. The disease even shows a gender bias with two in three TB patients being young women.

The WHO’s ‘Tuberculosis in the Southeast Asia Region 2008’ report released on Monday also shows that about one in three people in India have latent TB, which means they are infected but do not show symptoms because of a strong immunity.

Experts say there are several factors that can weaken the immune system. “Deficiencies such as HIV, diabetes or cancer suppress immunity, so do drugs such as corticosteroids, arthritis medications or anti-cancer drugs. Smoking as a tuberculosis risk factor has also been emphasised in medical literature in the past five years and some studies show it can double the risk,” says Dr J.N. Pande, senior consultant at Sitaram Bhartia Institute, and former head of medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Urban lifestyles make the job easy for the TB bacterium. Crash diets are one of the major factors that can trigger latent TB infection into full-blown disease. Among women, it is a major factor that triggers infection, along with jobs having long and erratic timings, such as those at BPOs and airlines.

With 1.7 million new cases annually, TB remains the single largest cause of death in India, the survey shows. Globally, there were 9.2 million new cases and 1.7 million deaths from TB in 2006, the latest year for which statistics are available. Of these, 7 lakh cases and 2 lakh deaths were among people with HIV.

Last week, the WHO’s 12th annual report on global tuberculosis control said missing TB cases in India and China were jeopardising global efforts to slash new infections by 2015. In South and South-East Asia alone, 3 million people develop tuberculosis in each year and over half a million die of the disease, the report points out. Along with India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand have over 2 million cases or 95 per cent of all cases globally.